The Role of Witches in Macbeth Essay Example


In the times we live in today politics and social distresses often take the forefront of our time and thought.  Often times these problems have plagued our society since the dawn of modern society.  Things like greed, lust for power, lies, and war that we can never seem to shake from our society no matter how advanced we become.  Many of these problems are overtly evident in Shakespeare’s Macbeth.  Although written in an age long ago without the modern technology we possess today, many of the overall themes and lessons can be carried over into our modern society with relative ease.  For those reasons alone prove that we should never count out the study of literature as a lens to look at our own society from and perhaps gain a more effective perspective into our lives today.   

A set of the characters that you can view through many lenses as a lesson to learn from is the Three Witches and Hecate.  The witches represent a vile evil plague upon humanity which can be so much worse than any mortal diseases; the lust for power, greed, and perhaps even the political system itself.  The Witches live to take what they want and reek havoc and torment among the living and good people of the world.  Their greed is illustrated when the first witch tortures and slowly will kill the husband of a woman who merely refused to give her chestnuts that were in fact hers (Act I. sc iii. ln 5-26).  This clear display of greed and the reaction to not getting what they want displays something that our society has been dealing with since the dawn of time.  Whether its corrupt politicians being bought by lobbyists, or greedy tycoons in the Gilded Age greed is one of the largest problems in our modern society that often tears individuals apart.  

The Witches can also represent the general political system itself.  They take the noble hero of Macbeth and rise him to power corrupting him the whole way.  Macbeth in the beginning of the play represents a noble hero and someone who would make a great leader.  He is loved by the public, already holds an office, and is a brave war hero.  Someone like that today would represent an ideal candidate.  The witches see this too and use it to their advantage to cause rampant chaos in Scotland.  They fill Macbeth’s head with visions with things like becoming king and gaining another thaneship (Act I. sc iii. ln 48-50).  The people who push noble people into office to run and lead the nation often do this.  It is easy for people to get romantic visions of things in their minds without thinking about the consequences or the actions that they may have to take to get into that spot.  However, as they say there is always a bigger dog and we get that with Hecate.  She comes in as the boss of the witches and influences the scenario even more and makes the real shots just proving how far that corruptions can go into the line of power.  

Another example of a form of corruption is Banquo.  He is painted as a hero in the beginning along with Macbeth and was with him during the incident with witches along the road.  Banquo is not an innocent party in this play even though Shakespeare paints him as this martyr latter in the play.  Banquo knows more than anyone about the true nature of the murder of King Duncan.  His ideas are apparent in some of his quotes.  "Thou hast it now: king, Cawdor, Glamis, all,  As the weird women promised, and I fear  Thou played’st most foully for ’t" (3.1.1-3).  Banquo’s reluctance to say anything despite his clear knowledge of the treachery of Macbeth results in the death of countless lives and results in a war.  This just proves what can happen when a leader does not take charge and instead tries to ride the coattails of badness further oneself and watching the plan and action crash in a fiery ball of flame.  

A lot of this proves true when your remember that Macbeth was in fact a real man and this play is based off real events and real people.  The real Macbeth defeated King Duncan I in battle and succeeded him as King of Alba.  There was massive civil unrest and the war with malcolm actually occured in real life.  If this doesn’t go to show that the societal and political problems in Macbeth occur in real life I don’t know what would.  

I think that another societal problem displayed by a character is Lady Macbeth.  She shows very negative characteristics and personifies things that we view as negative to us today.  She is a master of manipulation and she plays Macbeth into committing the deeds that he commits and not only that she lies and covers up for it many many times throughout the plays.  For example when she urges him to kill Duncan. “Shall sun that morrow see! Your face, my thane, is a book where men may read strange matters.  To beguile this time, look like the time; bear welcome in your eye, your hand, your tongue:  look like th’ innocent flower, but be serpent under’t.  He that’s coming must be provided for: and you shall put this night’s great business into my dispatch; which shall to all our nights and days come give solely sovereign sway and masterdom” (Act I. Sc. 5. Ln 60-70). 

She represents the true evil and corruption represented by the greed and manipulation that sadly plagues so many humans.  

We will never truly be rid of these daunting challenges and horrors that our society has known since its inception.  But, that is what makes works like Macbeth so important to our society and way of life.  We need these stories that show true greed, power, and selfishness to remind us that they exist, to have an outlet to show how these things have happened through history, and how they may happen again in the future.  These works give us a view into the past and show us that these issues existed in a time other than our own, and give us hope that we made it through it then and will continue to now.

 

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